Red Lentil Dal with Zucchini
I was really tempted this weekend. My parents were over and my Dad surprised me with berries for dessert. He was equally surprised when I shared that I wasn’t eating fruit right now. Have no fear, this will likely be temporary.. unless I enjoy it too much. Think all desserts have to be sweetened? Not true! Gabby shared these delicious carob almond butter cups with me and you would never know they were sweetener-free.
Savoury Indian dishes have fuelled me during my sweetener-free challenge. While I have cooked up quite a few Indian dishes, I still feel like a novice to Indian cooking. Pangal, aviyal, dhokla, they are still foreign to me. I probably don’t even pronounce them properly. Leafing through 660 Curries and 1000 Indian Recipes, I know there are tons of curries and likely 1000s more beyond the pages of these cookbooks.
Thankfully I don’t think I will ever tire of the holy vegan trinity of beans+grains+greens. I eat it every day. These are staples throughout the world. I still have my favourite repeater curries, but like to mix things up with seasonal produce.
Here, this simple savoury red lentil and zucchini curry from World Vegetarian reminds me of Nepalese Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime combined with hefty chunks of zucchini. Jaffrey says this dish is typically made with green bottle gourd, instead of zucchini, but the latter is easier to find.
I am a sucker for creamy red lentils and while it didn’t have the zip that dal bhat delivers, it was a great curry. I find that most curries are a bit too watery for my liking, especially if eaten fresh. So, I have suggested starting with less water. You can always add more to thin it out, but it is kind of a pain to boil that extra water away. It will thicken a bit as leftovers as well. I also ended up using less oil, salt and chili and adding more lime. Definitely season to taste, as I probably could have added more heat with the chile flakes.
Red Lentil Dal with Zucchini
Adapted from World Vegetarian
1 cup red lentils, picked, washed, drained
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp oil
4 whole cardamom pods
1 (1-1/2-inch) cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh peeled grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed/pressed
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-cm rounds then quarter crosswise (300g) [I think my chunks were too big, just make sure they are bite-sized pieces]
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes (or cayenne, to taste)
1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
juice from 1/2 lime
1. Boil lentils in 3-4 cups of water with turmeric in a large pot, being careful not to let them boil over, and skimming off the froth that rises. Cover partly, simmer on low for about 25 minutes or until lentils are tender.
2. Put the oil in a skillet over medium heat and, when very hot, stir in the cardamom, cinnamon, bay and cumin for a few seconds, add onion and continue to stir until onion is medium brown. Add ginger, garlic, and stir for another minute, then add zucchini, ground pepper, chili flakes and salt and stir for another minute.
3. Add 1/2 cup water, cover, and turn heat to low and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover, stir again, then add these contents of the skillet into the pot with the lentils (I did the reverse). Stir gently to mix and cook on low for 1 minute. Add salt, to taste. Squeeze lime juice over the top before serving with rice (I served it with quinoa).